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Cablegate: Canada: Modest Cabinet Shuffle

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INFO ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON PINR CA
SUBJECT: CANADA: MODEST CABINET SHUFFLE

1. (SBU) Summary: PM Harper reshuffled his cabinet on January 19
in preparation for a new session of Parliament and Speech from the
Throne on March 3 and a federal budget on March 4. The changes
included ten medium and lower rank portfolios, and reflected a
strongly economic focus. He identified the economy as his
government's "top priority," while insisting that the government
would continue to "stay the course" by keeping all key economic
portfolios with veteran ministers and by retaining almost all
senior ministers in place. End summary.

"RECALIBRATING" THE TEAM

2. (SBU) In a long expected move, Prime Minister Stephen Harper
on January 19 introduced ten ministers with new portfolios in a
brief, televised ceremony with Governor General Michaelle Jean at
Rideau Hall. All key economic portfolios remained in the hands of
veteran ministers, and most other senior ministers -- at Finance,
Foreign Affairs, and National Defence - also remained in place.
The PM had previously signaled that the reshuffle would be part of
his efforts to "recalibrate" his government during the
parliamentary prorogation (suspension) until March 3. The
reshuffle followed the January 16 resignation of Veterans' Affairs
Minister Greg Thompson (New Brunswick's cabinet representative),
who cited fatigue and family reasons for stepping down as minister
(but not yet as MP), and who pledged not to run again in the next
election. The changes in responsibilities took place immediately
following the ministers' oath-taking at the ceremony. Only MP -
Rob Moore - is a first-time minister; all others were previously in
the Cabinet.

3. (U) The following link provides details about the new
portfolios and biographies of the ministers:
http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/cabinet.asp?featureId =8. Key changes
included moving International Trade Minister Stockwell Day to the
Treasury Board (the department responsible for managing the federal
public service) and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan to
International Trade. Two ministers -- National Defence Minister
Peter MacKay and Government Leader in the Senate Marjorie LeBreton
-- had minor additional responsibilities taken away (Atlantic
Canada and Seniors, respectively) to free them to concentrate on
their primary portfolios.

NEW CABINET CHANGES

4. (U) The new cabinet responsibilities are as follow:

-- Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board, and Minister for
the Asia-Pacific Gateway (formerly Minister of International Trade)


-- Peter Van Loan, Minister of International Trade (formerly
Minister of Public Safety)

-- Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety (formerly President of the
Treasury Board)

-- Marjorie LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate
(formerly also Minister of State for Seniors)

-- Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans' Affairs and
Minister of State (Agriculture) (formerly Minister of National
Revenue)

-- Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Canada (PWGSC) (formerly Minister of Labour)

-- Christian Paradis, Minister of Natural Resources (formerly
Minister of PWGSC)

-- Lisa Raitt, Minister of Labour (formerly Minister of Natural
Resources)

-- Diane Ablonczy, Minister for State for Seniors) (formerly
Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism)

-- Keith Ashfield, Minister of National Revenue, Minister of the
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and Minister for the
Atlantic Gateway (formerly Minister of State for ACOA), and,

-- Rob Moore, Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism.

"AN EXPERIENCED TEAM"

5. (U) PM Harper emphasized in a statement that "this is an
experienced team that will stay the course" on the second and final
implementation phase of the Canada Economic Action Plan, while
meeting the challenges of emerging from the recession, restoring
balanced budgets, and promoting economic growth and job creation.
He described the changes as a "fine-tuning." The reshuffle
increased the size of cabinet to 39 members, including the Prime
Minister, 24 ministers, ten Ministers of State, as well as the
Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the
Government in the House, and the Chief Government Whip. Eleven
members of the cabinet are women (unchanged from the previous
cabinet). PM Harper insisted to skeptical reporters after the
ceremony that the increase in the size of cabinet at a time of
fiscal restraint was justifiable, given that this was not the right
time for demotions, that ministerial budgets constituted only a
small part of government spending, and that the government needed
all the ministers to promote its policies.

6. (U) PM Harper increased cabinet representation from Atlantic
Canada with Moore's elevation, as well as the promotion of fellow
New Brunswicker Ashfield to Minister of National Revenue. Ashfield
becomes the province's senior representative in cabinet, which the
outgoing Greg Thompson had been before. Observers had expected
Quebec to receive a boost; rumors had circulated that former
Foreign Minister and Quebec MP Maxime Bernier might return to
favor, but PM Harper sidestepped questions on Bernier in a
post-ceremony press conference.

UP, DOWN, BUT NO ONE OUT

7. (SBU) The shuffle contained few surprises. Among the perceived
demotions, former Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt slipped to
Minister of Labour, which the media was quick to attribute to
stumbles in 2009 over an aide's loss of sensitive documents and
Raitt's apparent insensitivity over medical isotope shortages. The
media also claimed that Van Loan had been unhappy at Public Safety
and had sought the move to much smaller International Trade
portfolio. Stockwell Day's move to the Treasury Board appeared to
many at best as a lateral move and possibly even a demotion for one
of PM Harper's former leadership rival who had been highly activist
and visible as International Trade Minister. PM Harper nonetheless
underscored publicly that he had handed Day a front line
responsibility as part of the government's economic strategy to
restrain spending, tackle the deficit, and promote economic growth
and jobs. PM Harper identified Day's experience as a former
provincial finance minister and his distinguished performance in
federal cabinet, as good fits for the "essential" role of the
Treasury Board in the months ahead in constraining and monitoring
government spending.

8. (SBU) Perceived winners included Rona Ambrose, who had been
effectively demoted in 2007 from Environment to Intergovernmental
Affairs, and subsequently moved laterally to Labour in 2008. The
media called her promotion to Public Works and Government Services
Canada (PWGSC) -- a department with one of the largest government
budgets and responsibility for the key infrastructure file - a
"second chance." Quebecer Christian Paradis, Ambrose's predecessor
at PWGSC, also moved up -- to Natural Resources, with
responsibility for Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) as well as the
politically sensitive oilsands portfolio. Natural Resources is an
important file for Quebec, and Paradis will retain his role as
political minister for the province. PM Harper praised Paradis to
the media as deserving of a more "stimulating" cabinet challenge.
Diane Ablonczy's move from Minister of State for Small Business and
Tourism to the Seniors' file was seen by some as a reward for a
long-term and underappreciated MP, but a 2009 flap between her and
Industry Minister Clement over funding to a Toronto Gay Pride event
may have contributed to the move as well.

9. (SBU) There were a few changes to important Cabinet
Committees. Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon replaced Stockwell
Day as Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan, which now
includes Veterans' Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn and
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as well as National Defence
Minister Peter MacKay and Minister for International Cooperation
Beverley Oda. The membership of the key Priorities and Planning
Committee, chaired by the PM and made up of the most senior
ministers, was unchanged. Other minor committee changes reflected
ministerial portfolio changes.

NEXT STEPS

10. (SBU) The next step in the government's "recalibration" is
likely to come with the appointment imminently of five new
Conservatives senators to fill current vacancies. The appointments
will give the Conservatives a plurality of 51 over the Liberals' 49
in the 105-seat Senate for the first time since the government took
office in 2006. Observers expect the government's deft handling of
Canada's reaction to the Haitian crisis, acknowledged even by
political opponents, to produce a modest uptick in the polls.
Coverage of the Haiti situation and of the cabinet shuffle
overshadowed a federal Liberal caucus retreat in Ottawa from
January 19 to 20 convened to highlight the shuttering of Parliament
during prorogation.

11. (U) Separately, the Prime Minister declared himself "very
satisfied" with a Federal Court ruling on January 18 in favor of
the Conservative Party in an important court battle with Elections
Canada over eligible campaign expenses in the 2006 election.
Elections Canada had contended that the party had deliberately
exceeded its C$18.3 million campaign spending limit in 2006 by
channeling C$1.2 million in national advertising funds through the
local campaigns of 67 Conservative candidates (with separate
spending limits) and had broken the law by doing so. The party
took Elections Canada to court, maintaining that it had done
nothing wrong and had "followed the rules." The Federal Court
agreed, although it suggested that the overall legitimacy of the
advertising issue remained a "'debatable" issue.
JACOBSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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